Four Arkansas elementary schools are among 286 named Tuesday as 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools by the U.S. Education Department.
Ellen Smith Elementary School in the Conway School District, Bergman Elementary School in the Bergman School District, Central Park at Morning Star Elementary in the Bentonville School District and Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Fort Smith are the Arkansas recipients of the Blue Ribbon honors this year.
The annual honor is bestowed on schools based on either overall academic excellence or on the progress shown in improving academic achievement.
Schools in the first category, Exemplary High Performing, are among the highest-performing schools in a state as measured by state exams or nationally normed tests.
Schools in the second category, Exemplary Improving, are those in which at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds demonstrate the most progress in improving achievement on state tests or nationally normed tests.
All four of the Arkansas schools this year are categorized as Exemplary High Performing, including the Conway and Bergman schools in which at least 40 percent of pupils are from low-income families.
“We are extremely proud of these three high-performing schools,” Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said Tuesday in a prepared statement about the public school awards. “They serve as statewide models of success.”
Immaculate Conception School in Fort Smith celebrated the Blue Ribbon award - the first given to a Catholic school in the state - at a ceremony Tuesday that included school, church, city and legislative leaders.
Principal Sharon Blentlinger called the honor the highest commendation available to a school.
“I give credit for this distinction to a highly skilled and dedicated faculty who never give up on a child and go the extra mile to help children learn and succeed,” she said.
The U.S. Education Department annually requests nominations for the Blue Ribbon awards from state education officials and the Council for American Private Education. The secretary of education then invites the nominated schools to submit applications for the awards.
Leaders of the Arkansas schools are invited to join leaders of all 236 public schools and 50 private schools to be honored this year at ceremonies Nov. 18-19 in Washington, D.C.
The Blue Ribbon Award program was established in 1982.